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NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

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  • Aug 8, 2022
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  • NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation
  • Senate approves Caputo, Crowell for NRC Seats
  • Nuclear Startup Last Energy Lands Polish MOU
  • TVA And GEH Sign Agreement To Begin Design And Licensing Of SMRs
  • ARC Canada Partners With CNL To Advance Fuel Development Program
  • INL Update on Its Net-Zero Microgrid Program

NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation

Nuclear fuel assembly colorThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized Southern Nuclear Operating Company (SNC) to load nuclear fuel and begin operation at Vogtle Unit 3 in Georgia, the first reactor to reach this point in the agency’s combined license process.

SNC recently informed the agency that the company completed the inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria  (ITAAC) needed to show Vogtle Unit 3 and can begin safe operations.

“This is the first time we’ve authorized a reactor’s initial startup through our Part 52 licensing process,” said Andrea Veil, Director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

“Before authorization, we independently verified that Vogtle Unit 3 has been properly built and will protect public health and safety when it transitions to operation. Our resident inspectors at Vogtle will keep a close eye on Unit 3 as the fuel load and startup testing move forward. We’re focused on safety so the country can use Vogtle’s additional carbon-free electricity. We will maintain this focus as we
license the next generation of new reactors.”

The NRC’s decision moves Vogtle Unit 3, adjacent to the operating Units 1 and 2, near Waynesboro, Georgia, out of the construction reactor oversight program and into the operating reactor oversight process. Vogtle Unit 4 remains under construction.

What’s an ITAAC?

World Nuclear News reported that The process of satisfying the 398 ITAACs (inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria) outlined in the COL – all verified independently by the NRC – was completed on July 29th.

The on-site team is now working on final preparations to load fuel, begin startup testing and bring the unit online, Georgia Power said. The company has previously said it is targeting the end of October to complete loading of the fuel – which is already on site – into the reactor, in order to achieve an in-service date at the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Over the following several months, start-up testing will demonstrate the integrated operation of the primary coolant system and steam supply system at design temperature and pressure with fuel inside the reactor, before the plant is brought to initial criticality and synchronized to the grid.

Construction of Vogtle 3 began in March 2013 and unit 4 in November that year. Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power, both subsidiaries of Southern Company, took over management of the project to build the units in 2017 following Westinghouse’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Unit 4 is now over 96% complete, with a target in-service date of December 2023.

& & &

Senate approves Caputo, Crowell for NRC Seats

nrc logoThe US Senate confirmed in a voice vote August 2nd the nominations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell to serve as commissioners on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The vote gives the five-member agency a full house of commissioners for the first time since then-Chairman Kristine Svinicki left when her term ended in 2021.

President Joe Biden nominated the two new commissioners last May. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously approved their nominations July 27th.

The American Nuclear Society applauded the pair’s confirmation.

“The American Nuclear Society applauds the Senate for restoring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to five commissioners with the confirmations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell,” ANS President Steven Arndt and Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy stated in a press release.

A full five-member commission is essential to the effectiveness of the NRC in protecting public health and safety while enabling the deployment and applications of new nuclear technologies. The American Nuclear Society has consistently highlighted the need for a full commission of qualified individuals, preferably with strong technical education and backgrounds.”

“The NRC has a vital role to play in addressing our most pressing climate and energy security challenges. We look forward to commissioners Caputo and Crowell’s tenures in overseeing the continued safe and efficient operation of our current nuclear power plants and in establishing an effective licensing framework for a new generation of nuclear technologies.”

Commissioner Profiles

Caputo, a nuclear engineer, was previously nominated to the commission by then-President Donald Trump and served from May 2018 to June 2021 when her term expired. She was previously a majority senior policy adviser for nuclear issues for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees NRC. Caputo was also a staffer for the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee and, before that, was a congressional affairs manager for Exelon.

From 2004 to 2007, Crowell was a legislative advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) which has a significant anti-nuclear policy position.  The group has a long history of litigation filing lawsuits against the NRC over a range of issues.

Some pro nuclear advocates worry that Crowell will be influenced by his experience at NRDC and might follow in the footsteps of former NRC Commissioner Allison MacFarlane who continued her anti-nuclear efforts long after leaving office.

Crowell served at DOE as assistant secretary for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs from 2010 to 2016. In December 2016, Crowell was appointed to serve as director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by Governor Brian Sandoval.

& & &

Nuclear Startup Last Energy Lands Polish MOU

last energy logoUS-based Last Energy, a DC based startup working on a 20 MWe SMR (PWR design basis),announced an agreement with Poland’s Legnica Special Economic Zone (LSSE) to build its SMRs in Poland.

Last Energy said it has ambitions to develop 10 SMRs in the LSSE to fuel industrial activity. LSSE is home to more than 75 companies and over 16,000 jobs. The 10 power plants, if built, would deliver 200MWe of capacity to the region.

A letter of intent was signed between LSSE, Last Energy and DB Energy in late July concerning participation in the construction and integration process in the Zone of the 10 SMRs and their operation for 24 years. Last Energy’s offer covers the entire investment process – from the design concept, through design, arrangements, financing, implementation, service, maintenance and production of energy for the client, to the disposal of installations and fuel.

Last Energy said its power plant uses a pressurized water reactor (PWR) and modular plant design, which, it said, dramatically reduces the time and cost of plant construction.  On its website it claims a CAPEX cost of $3,000/Kw or $60M a unit, and a construction period of 24 months.

“Poland is one of the first countries where Last Energy plans to implement our SMR technology,” said Damian Jamroz, General Manager of Last Energy Polska.

“We’re glad that the Legnica Special Economic Zone has expressed its interest in locating one of the planned investments in their area, as well as the intention to sign a long-term contract for the energy produced. Now, we will begin the process of identifying potential locations.”

LSSE President Przemyslaw Bozek noted: “Potential investors are increasingly faced with a lack of availability of energy and gas in the quantities they need. This project would allow for a safe, stable and emission-free source of energy for factories located in the Zone. We are taking another step not only towards green energy, but also to strengthen energy security.”

Bret Kugelmass, founder and CEO of Last Energy, said: “Nuclear energy offers countries a powerful strategy to achieve both. Today’s agreement is a critical step toward bringing stable, reliable and cost-competitive energy to Poland, and establishing a much-needed model for how energy security and climate goals can align for the industrial sector.”

Q&A With Last Energy

  • How will the deal be financed and by whom?

This deal will be entirely privately funded from a combination of Private Equity funds, Infrastructure funds, and Family Offices.

  • What is your time frame to break ground on the first unit?

Our next steps include working with LSSE to identify locations for the plant and to secure design approval. Our fully modular design is manufactured entirely off-site, to minimize field construction time and the complexity that comes with it – and our goal is to be able to manufacture and deliver a plant within two years of final deal approval.

Last Energy’s spokesperson did not respond to several other questions including the firm’s plans for the US supply chain for its export reactor and localization in Poland or its competitive prospects there given the number of the other SMR developers also seeking market share in that country.

& & &

TVA And GEH Sign Agreement To Begin Design And Licensing Of SMRs At Clinch River

(NucNettva-logoThe Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has signed an agreement with nuclear plant manufacturer GE-Hitachi (GEH) to deploy small modular reactors (SMRs) at Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and will spend the next year preparing a construction permit to build two of the BWRX-300 small modular reactors.

The agreement is part of plans to pursue phased activities that will kick off with design and licensing of a potential GEH light-water BWRX-300 SMR at Clinch River, a 914 acre site in Roane County for which TVA holds the nation’s only early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

TVA president Jeff Lyash said during a report on quarterly earnings, “TVA recently issued an industry-leading request for proposal for 5,000 megawatts of carbon-free energy to be available by 2029 and, knowing the critical role advanced nuclear technology will play in our nation’s drive to decarbonization, we signed a partnership with GEH to advance our pursuit of small modular reactor technology.”

While TVA is pursuing a range of energy options for its future, Mr. Lyash said he thinks the SMRs will be needed to help TVA achieve its long-term goal of being carbon-free by 2050 while still maintaining reliable and relatively low-cost power.

“I am pleased to announce that TVA has taken another step on that road [to building an SMR] and signed a two-party agreement with GE-Hitachi which will support our planning and preliminary licensing for the potential deployment of an SMR at the Clinch River site,” Mr Lyash said during the earnings presentation. “The agreement will provide additional information to analyze the viability of SMRs in the Valley.”

Company Ready To Invest $200 Million In First Phase

TVA said earlier this year it would invest $200M (€196m) in the first phase of a new program to explore advanced nuclear technology, including plans to prepare a construction license application for an SMR at Clinch River.

The company said it would explore technologies and potential locations for advanced nuclear reactors and will partner with other utilities, government agencies and research institutes to mitigate costs and risks associated with advancing this new technology. TVA said at the time it was already in discussions with GEH to support its BWRX-300 SMR design.

TVA-plants-map529px

TVA’s nuclear fleet – the nation’s third-largest – has a generating capacity of approximately 8,000 MWe and is the backbone of the company’s clean generation portfolio. TVA owns and operates three nuclear stations with a total of seven units in Tennessee: Browns Ferry (three units), Sequoyah (two units) and Watts Bar (two units).

& & &

ARC Canada Partners With Canadian Nuclear Labs To Advance Fuel Development Program

cnl logoARC Clean Energy Canada (ARC Canada) announced a partnership with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization.

Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the joint agreement will deliver a technology demonstration of the fuel fabrication process for ARC Canada’s advanced small modular reactor (aSMR) scheduled for deployment at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) in New Brunswick, Canada, within the decade.

The ARC 100 is a sodium cooled fast reactor with a design legacy that links back to the Integral Fast Reactor developed and operated at the Argonne West site in Idaho.

“This is a significant first step towards establishing capability in Canada to manufacture fuel assemblies for the ARC technology,” said Dr. Maggie Manley, Fuel Systems Engineer, leading the project for ARC Canada.

“Our collaboration with CNL, with access to their world-class facilities and qualified technical experts, is critical to validate our fuel qualification program and deployment approach. ARC Canada is proud to have been selected to partner with our national laboratories as we work towards a clean energy future.”

CNL will support ARC Canada with expertise in nuclear fuel fabrication and access to state- of-the-art research facilities at Chalk River to develop a fuel pin prototype fabrication line for ARC technology. The prototype work will also deliver a qualified set of procedures for the development of a “made in Canada” production line to support a Canadian fleet approach.

“Fuel development is a particular strength of the team here at the Chalk River Laboratories,” commented Dr. Jeff Griffin, Vice-President of Science and Technology.

The joint project will began in July and is expected to be completed within two years.

& & &

INL Update on Its Net-Zero Microgrid Program

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has a Net-Zero Microgrid (NZM) program based on funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity. This program is conducting research on carbon-free solutions that offer enhanced resilience to critical isolated electrical grid and generation infrastructure that are located in under-served communities.

net zero microgrid

“Microgrids are a set of electricity generators that can manage themselves without being connected to the grid,” said Tim McJunkin, a distinguished researcher in INL’s Power and Energy Systems department.

“If they are connected to the grid, they can support themselves as well as the distribution and transmission systems.” This means they can provide grid services to both local utilities and larger power authorities.”

Recently INL released its latest report addressing economic issues for microgrids in the series this month.  “Small Reactors (SRs) in Microgrids – Technoeconomic Analysis

This report recognizes that the development of technoeconomic analysis for SRs in microgrids must consider that:

  • Microgrids built with SRs have different configurations depending on their boundaries, the loads and resources within those boundaries, energy storage, and the connection and interaction with the distribution network. Primary technical design principles include power and energy adequacy, system economics, system reliability, and operational resilience.
  • Technical studies required to evaluate the feasibility of SR in microgrids include siting, generation optimization, operational framework and feasibility, economic optimization, and risk analysis. Technoeconomic models specific to SRs are necessary to conduct these feasibility studies.

Cross-Cutting Research

The Net-Zero Microgrid program  conducts cross-cutting research to accelerate the removal of carbon-emitting technologies. It organizes research and development activities across multiple energy resources.

For example, the program leverages the expertise and platforms in INL’s Energy Systems Laboratory and its nuclear energy research testbeds. This includes the Microreactor Applications Research Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) research microreactor, funded under the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“Nuclear, renewables and energy storage can potentially have a large advantage over typical diesel or natural gas microgrids,” INL senior microgrid researcher Kurt Myers said.

He noted that decreasing or removing the fuel supply chains can reduce potential impacts and costs for remote applications and improve availability in cases where gas pipelines or fossil fuel supply systems could be disrupted by weather, disasters or cyberattacks.

“Today microgrids provide stable and high-quality power to critical military and community needs. But they almost all use conventional fossil energy generators,” McJunkin said. “This program will address roadblocks to moving away from the fossil-fuel-based option.”

INL is committed to demonstrating the viability of microgrids that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from greater than 80% in 2020 to less than 50% within the next four years. Integrating renewable energy sources with small reactors, hydrogen fuel cells and energy storage will allow us to meet these goals.

Other reports published in prior years by the micro grids program can be accessed via the INL Digital Library.

INL is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory that performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

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